Monday, 9 March 2020

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought of It:

Winner of the Costa Children’s Book Award 2019, and now longlisted for the 2020 Jhalak Prize, Asha and the Spirit Bird is a wonderful adventure tale for young readers 9 and older.

Asha’s father is away, working in a factory in the big city to make money for his family. But no one has heard from him in months, and now thugs are demanding repayment of the loan her mother was forced to take out. If they can’t repay the loan by Divali – just seven weeks away – they will be forced to sell the family farm and join Asha’s uncle in England, away from everything they know.

Convinced that her nana-ji has been reincarnated in a lamagaia – one of the huge bearded vultures who live among the mountains of the Himalayas – and that her spirit is guiding her, Asha decides to take matters into her own hands. She and her best friend Jeevan set out for the city to find her father and bring him home.

This joyous adventure tale, gilded with the touch of magic, takes the reader from the fields of sugar cane in the foothills of the Himalayas, up into the snow-covered mountains where wolves and tigers prowl, to the pilgrim temple at the source of the holy Ganges and on into the slums of the city, among the street children who might have slipped from the pages of Deepa Anappara’s Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line.

Asha and Jeevan are a youthful Mulder and Scully – with Jeevan the sceptic questioning Asha’s faith in her spirit bird while remaining utterly loyal.

This book is grounded in the author’s family tales and memories of holidays on the family farm where she was born. And it takes inspiration – as does its young heroine – from the warrior goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, like Durga, who fought off demons while riding a tiger.

A thoroughly modern fairytale and a true page turner – a pleasure for young readers and young-at-heart adults alike.

You Will Enjoy This If You Loved: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargraves; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Avoid If You Dislike: Stories of lost fathers and families in danger.

Perfect Accompaniment: Cinnamon milk

Genre: Children’s 9+

Buy This Book Here

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